High Court of Kerala Quashes Appeal Commissioner’s Order for Not Issuing Record of Personal Hearing as Per CBIC Instruction.
FULL TEXT OF THE HIGH COURT ORDER /JUDGEMENT
In all these Writ Petitions, the issue that is raised while impugning the orders passed by the 2nd respondent, is that the 2nd respondent did not maintain a record of personal hearing at the time of disposal of the appeals preferred by the petitioners against orders of the original authority. In the Writ Petition, it is the case of the petitioners that in connection with the procedure stipulated for hearing appeals through video conferencing during the Covid-19 pandemic period, the respondent Appellate Authority was obliged to maintain a record of personal hearing and issue a copy of the same to the petitioners so as to comply with the requirements of natural justice. In the instant cases, it is the contention of the learned counsel for the petitioners that no such records of personal hearing was maintained, and at any rate no copies of the said record of personal hearing were sent to the petitioners.
2. Through a statement filed on behalf of the respondents, it is stated that the petitioners were given an opportunity of personal hearing and they were represented by a professional Chartered Accountant on the basis of the authorisation granted to the said person. It is further stated that inasmuch as there were a large number of cases attended to by the very same authorised representative, the Appellate Authority heard the said authorised person and accepted the common written submissions that were filed for the two separate category of appellants, namely, registered and unregistered persons. It is admitted that the record of personal hearing was inadvertently omitted to be sent to the petitioners although the argument notes already submitted by the authorised representative of the petitioners was available with the appellate authority.
3. I have heard the learned counsel for the petitioners and the learned Standing counsel for the respondents.
On a consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case and the submissions made across the Bar, I am of the view that inasmuch as the procedure for maintaining a record of personal hearing was a formal one that was devised to take care of the compliance with the rules of natural justice during the period when the personal hearing had to be undertaken through video conferencing, taking note of the covid pandemic situation, the respondent Appellate Authority ought to have complied with the said procedure strictly. Inasmuch as in these cases, the said procedure was not complied, I deem it appropriate to quash the impugned orders and direct the appellate authority to pass fresh orders after complying with the said procedure and after hearing the petitioners. The Appellate Authority shall pass fresh orders as directed within two months from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment.